A lot happens when a service member receives PCS (Permanent Change of Station) orders, including what to do with the family pet. PCSers need to know the steps to bring their dog or cat along, as well as what alternatives exist to responsibly rehome their loving four-legged family member.
Married or single: it matters
If you’re married, your dependents are included in PCS orders and everyone moves together. Pets can be included, provided the family notifies the proper military offices and makes arrangements for travel plans, especially flight reservations. The service member is responsible for all coordination with the airline, including paying for the pet’s ticket.
While it can be stressful, there are ways to make it easier to travel with pets.
Often a service member’s home at the next duty station isn’t immediately available when he or she moves. As a result, the family may have to spend a transitional period at a hotel, finalizing paperwork or waiting for their home to be ready.
Hotels on or near bases tend to be pet friendly. Many military personnel have pets and it’s simply good business to accommodate them.
Pets traveling overseas, and often within the United States, require a health certificate from a licensed veterinarian. If your pet is determined by your veterinarian to be too sick or too old to make the trip, your best option is to consider rehoming it responsibly well in advance of your departure.
Traveling with your pet
- PCSing is like moving from one town to another if the next duty station is within the United States. On-base housing generally imposes a two-pet limit.
- Breed specific legislation, or BSL, prohibits ownership of certain breeds of dogs within a given municipality. Your particular branch or service or base will have its own restrictions. Even if your duty station permits certain types of dogs, the municipality in which it resides might not. In those circumstances you could not legally take your pet off base. Know before you go.
- Hawaii requires quarantine and an extensive list of vaccinations so that diseases are not imported to the island.
- When moving overseas, check with the destination base, Department of Agriculture, and consulate of the destination country for specific health, transport, and quarantine issues that may apply to your pet.
- To enter Europe your pet will need proper veterinary documentation and paperwork. There is no quarantine period, with the exception of Ireland and Sweden.
- If traveling to Guam, Japan or Korea, pets are required to have all their documentation, paperwork and shots. There is a quarantine period as well.
- Talk to the base veterinarian at your current duty station. In many cases, he or she will be able to provide helpful information and pre-travel tips.
Unmarried military personnel have a different set of circumstances to navigate.
Single soldiers are often assigned a room in one of the barracks on base. With some exceptions, a house or apartment is provided, in which case the permissions for pet ownership are the same as that for married soldiers.
However, service members living in the barracks are not permitted to have pets.
If you have to leave your pet behind
Friends and family are not always the best option to provide long-term care for your pet when you PCS.
Many of the questions you need to ask if you are PCSing are the same as those that apply if you are deploying, including whether your parents or pals are up to the task.
Nonprofit deployment boarding organizations are usually not a long-term solution either. As their names suggest, they assist primarily in deployment situations as well as in cases of hardship or emergency.
However, some of these organizations offer short-term fostering for service members who PCS out of the country, but whose pets are unable to travel at the same time due to weather conditions or quarantine. These foster arrangements can last up to six months.
Typically pets must be fixed and vaccinated prior being accepted into foster care, and may require microchip as well. Pets for Patriots partners with two nationally-operating deployment boarding organizations, Dogs On Deployment and Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet.
Finding your pet a new home
The last option is the heartbreaking decision to rehome your pet. At times this is the most responsible choice to make if you are unable to give your dog or cat a stable life.
Beware the friend who will take your pet “off your hands,” the elderly parent who feels obliged to take in your oversized dog, or the lure of online classifieds. Rarely do these offers end well for your pet.
Read our article here for more information on how to rehome your pet responsibly. And learn more in our series about the PCS-ing cat and dog part 1 and part 2.
This is quite a good and useful information! I’m planning my first move with my dog to Hawaii and it’s great to know all requirements on time. Thank you for the hints!
This blog needs updating! I currently live in the UK with my (active duty) husband and our dachshund. As of Jan 1, 2012, there is no longer a quarantine in the UK. You simply need to be sure to follow DEFRA guidelines and have vaccinations up-to-date prior to getting paperwork completed and moving your pet.
Most people I know who brought dogs or cats to the UK had to pay $1,500-2,500 in shipping costs because they require pets to enter as cargo when flown into the country. I opted to fly into Paris because my dog is small enough to fit in cabin, then travelled on to the UK. I think I actually ended up saving money doing that, as well as the stress it would have placed on my dog to ship him cargo.
Thank you Kylin! We have updated the blog and appreciate you bringing that to our attention. Thank you for your service as one of our wonderful military spouses!
I have a cat and I am moving to my boyfriend’s apartment who has a cat too. Now, we are worried about our pets because we don’t know whether they are going to like each other. I hope that with the time they are going to get used with the situation.
I have a friend that is PCSing with her two dogs and she was just informed that she will be deploying once she gets to Germany. Is there an Foster homes in Germany for foster.
It is heartbreaking to think of leaving our pets behind. Unfortunately, we are in that boat. Our older Golden is not healthy enough to travel and will become a new member of our vets family. While we are immensely sad about this, we know she is going to a loving home where she will get the best care possible.
To add insult to injury we are facing $2000+ in costs to fly our other Golden to Germany with us. The Patriot Express flights have all been full for pets his size for months and due to how Sato has to buy our tickets we cannot attach him to our tickets, and must use a pet service either through the airlines or a private one. All of which have quoted us in the ball park of $2000. Then there is a fee to get him into Germany. We know families who are able to attach their pets and are paying $400 to get their pet over to the same duty station. While that is still high, we would be grateful to pay that much. We’ve paid $500+ in the past for other overseas assignments. $2000+ is outrageous. It’s $300 more than the government is paying for me and my two children to fly to the same place. Something needs to be done about this so we can keep our pets who are family members with us. Our kids already give up enough.
Tina- was your older golden too elderly to make the trip? or it was the result of health issues? I’lll be PCSing with my 2 boxers. They are fine now but am concerned about the return trip to the US when they will be older. 8 and 9 years old.
Knelwodge wants to be free, just like these articles!
Your’s is the intelligent approach to this issue.
That’s a smart answer to a tricky question
I have three dogs and cannot imagine leaving them behind if we had to PCS overseas. My pets are just like my kids; family. I don’t know how anyone could leave them behind. Hopefully one day there will be NO WORRIES when PCSing with pets 🙁
Wonderfully comprehensive online guide about pet parents and PCS.
Helpful in defining the things that are involved, nice conditional statements, good resources, and what to do and where to turn if you can’t bring your pets along.
It’s helpful to know that different countries have different requirements and restrictions.
It’s critical to know the ins and outs in advance and you’ve provided that.
I might add that it would be wise to create a living will for both human family members and pets so that everyone is looked after in case something should happen to a soldier.
=^..^= Hairless Cat Girl =^..^=
Thanks Pets for Patriots for this great rundown. At Hawaii Military Pets, we feel pets are a lifetime commitment and that we all take on a pet knowing that this is a HUGE responsibility, but the benefits of a furry friend are countless. We advise that people create a pet care plan, similar to a child care plan before PCS and/or deployment. They should also visit legal and make sure their will and power of attorney is updated to include their pets. Our military vets are also a wonderful resource regarding any travel restrictions a breed or state might have. Lastly, we hope more folks will ask their base leadership for simple things, like pet care courses, or pet informaion packets when deploying or PCS. We all can work together to ensure our lifetime friends go where we go:)
As soon as you have an idea where you’re PCSing, start looking for pet-friendly housing. Many shelters/rescues maintain a list of rental companies who are pet-friendly. Be sure to check the locale’s pet limits, license requirements, and to see if there is BDL (Breed Discriminatory Legislation). If your pet’s not welcome in your new home, do you really want to live there?
“Well in advance of your departure” is KEY. It’s amazing how often people wait until the movers show up to get serious about finding a new home for a pet they cannot keep with their family. It can take MONTHS to find the right home for a pet.
Persistence – just because a no-kill shelter or rescue doesn’t have room this week, don’t give up. Call, call, call. You’re fighting for your pet’s life.
Call everywhere — not just one or two places. While rescues and shelters want to help your pet, and help you solve your problem, they didn’t create the situation and aren’t responsible to fix it.
The best person to choose a new home for your pet is you. You know him or her. Get to work, network, talk to everyone you know – at school, church, work. Plaster your area with flyers with clear description and a quality color photo of your pet.
If you do take your pet to a shelter or rescue, don’t quibble about a relinquish fee. Pay it. If there isn’t a relinquish fee, make a donation. Rescues and shelters love to help military families and their pets, but we need funds to operate.
Don’t get a pet if you don’t have a reasonable expectation of being able to keep him/her for a lifetime. This could be in the neighborhood of 20 years. Adopting a pet should get as much consideration as getting married. It’s a lifetime commitment.
If you want a furry companion but aren’t reasonably certain you’ll be able to provide a lifetime home, FOSTER for a shelter/rescue. You can still save lives and enjoy all the benefits of pet ownership, but you don’t have the vet bills, and when you PCS, you don’t have to worry about finding a new home for your pet.
If you know someone who abandons their pet, or talks about doing so, file a report with animal control/law enforcement and/or notify your chain of command. Abandonment is a crime. It’s not yet punishable under UCMJ, but it should be.
Great posting Crystal, completely agree on the lifetime commitment!
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